ILNews

New voter ID lawsuit filed

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The League of Women Voters of Indiana filed a lawsuit today in Marion County challenging the state's three-year-old voter identification statute recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

At 2 p.m. today, the organization filed the suit with the Marion Superior Court against Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, arguing that it has the standing to sue on behalf of its members because the state statute burdens potential voters and would cause the league to have to spend "precious resources" assisting voters without the required ID.

This lawsuit comes following the April 28 ruling from the nation's highest court in William Crawford, et al. v. Marion County Election Board, 128 S. Ct. 1610 (2008), which upheld the state law that is considered the strictest in the nation. That ruling rejected the facial challenge, but left the door open for as-applied challenges in federal court and those involving state constitutional claims.

But that case won't have much impact here, according to Indianapolis attorney William Groth who is co-counsel on this suit. The league is only raising Indiana constitutional challenges, which makes this different, he said.

"Crawford only minimally factors in," Groth said. "It discusses the law, how it operates, and sets the legal landscape for us, but doesn't have any impact."

Specifically, the suit says the 2005-passed Indiana voter ID law violates the Indiana Constitution's Article 2, Section 2, which states citizens only need to meet the age, citizenship, and residency requirements in order to cast a vote in-person. Any change the legislature might make must come through a constitutional amendment, not a statute, which didn't happen here, the suit says.

The suit doesn't name any specific plaintiffs, but does mention two specific election examples where individuals were restricted from voting because of the law.

One example happened during the 2007 municipal election when at least 34 voters arrived to vote without the required photo ID and were given provisional ballots - only two produced that ID later to have their votes count. The second example occurred during the May 2008 primary when 12 elderly St. Joseph County nuns were not even allowed to cast provisional ballots because they didn't have the required ID.

"Our argument will turn on whether the voter ID law imposes a new substantive requirement, or whether it's merely regulating the mechanics of the voting process," Groth said. "It's a subtle and nuanced distinction, but our Indiana caselaw supports that this must be a constitutional amendment."

The suit requests a speedy hearing for a declaratory relief in time for the Nov. 4 general election, though Groth expects the controversial issues involved here will require this case to be appealed and that could take longer.

Read the June 25-July 8, 2008 issue of Indiana Lawyer for a more in-depth story on this lawsuit, another in federal court, and others across the nation challenging voter identification requirements.
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